Biological control can be defined as the deliberate use of natural enemies - predators, parasites, pathogens, and competitors to suppress and maintain populations of a target pest species (insects, mites, weeds, plant pathogens, and other pest organisms).
NIFA supports research in bio-based pest management, which has the goal of providing safer and more effective methods of controlling pests while reducing our reliance on synthetic pesticides.
Biological control is particularly desirable because the tactic is environmentally safe, energy self-sufficient, cost-effective, sustainable, and can be readily incorporated into integrated pest management (IPM) programs. Furthermore, in many cases benefits from the use of natural enemies accrue at no additional cost. The practice of biological control usually involves one or more of the following approaches: 1) the importation of exotic natural enemies (classical biological control); 2) the conservation of resident or introduced beneficial organisms; and 3) the mass production and periodic release of natural enemies.
Biological control is often an important component of IPM programs, and is considered one of a number of bio-based pest management tactics. Other bio-based strategies include the use of microbial pesticides, behavior-modifying chemicals, genetic manipulation of pests, and host plant resistance.
Other agronomic or exclusionary tactics, such as date of planting, crop rotation, intercropping, and early maturing varieties, are based on knowledge of the interactions among pests, beneficial organisms, crops, and their environment. These tools may further enhance the implementation and success of bio-based pest management approaches including biological control.
Efforts in Controlling Invasive Species
NIFA is an active member of the federal National Invasive Species Council and contributes to the Invasive Species Management Plan, which includes an action plan for managing invasive species. A part of this plan recommends that the USDA accelerate the development, testing, assessment, transfer, and post-release monitoring of environmentally safe biological control agents.